I’ve not been very lucky lately in the sportswear ephemera department, but then this catalog appeared on eBay. It’s precisely the type of thing I love as it shows how women began wearing ready-made sportswear in the very early days of women’s ready-to-wear. It’s hard for us today to imagine, but until late in the nineteenth century there pretty much was not a women’s ready-to-wear industry. Cloaks and mantles – overgarments that did not need precise fitting – were the first to hit the market, and by the late 1890s, women could buy waists, skirts, and undergarments.
There’s no date to be found on my Mervin Knitting Mills catalog but a close examination of the models shows they are all sporting the S silhouette so popular in the Edwardian era. I did find one ad for Mervin, from 1909, and those sweaters all had a longer and leaner line, in keeping with how fashion was changing. So my best guess is around 1905.
Mervin made and imported a large variety of knit goods for women and children. We’d call the garments shown above cardigans or sweaters today, but Mervin Mills marketed them as knit blouses.
In many of the photos the models are holding golf clubs. Being knit, golfers must have really enjoyed the freedom a knit provided.
Many of the images of women golfers of this era show them wearing a double-breasted vest like the golf vests above. The only one I’ve actually ever seen was in an exhibition at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, several years ago.
Mervin Knitting Mills even offered a knit middy, perfect for table tennis.
Knit toques like these are commonly seen in photographs of the era, but are very rare these days.
Knit skirts like these do make it to the modern market on occasion. They are usually sold as petticoats, and I’ve seen them in period catalogs as petticoats. It would be a shame to hide those stripes though, don’t you think?
This garment was listed as a “kimona” coat. It looks a bit fancy for the golf course.
Witness2Fashion has been looking at the different terms given to various forms of lingerie in the 1920s, many of which have changed meaning or are no longer in use. Well, here’s a term I’ve never seen before, the pony coat. What makes the cardigans above pony coats? I have no idea.
Just in case some descendant of Max M. Myres is looking for information, he was the owner of Mervin Knitting Mills. located in New York City on Broadway at the corner of Broome Street. Today a Madewell clothing store occupies that address.